Three wishes unlikely to be granted but Lions can grasp long-awaited Test series success
So they have to win in Wales, who are bringing poor form into the championship after their games in November went very badly. That’s not out of the question for Ireland and it’s actually a great game to have up first because of the bounce they would get from winning it. But realistically, you’d have to expect either France or England to come out on top at the end.
2 That three Irish provinces make the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup
It might take a lot more than wishing for this one to come true. When all four provinces lost on the same weekend before Christmas, it brought everybody back to earth with a thump. That’s just not something we’ve been used to in the Heineken Cup and it has done the chances of getting quarter-final places huge damage. When something like that happens, it just reduces your options.
Munster and Leinster really just have to throw caution to the wind now and go all out to get bonus-point wins in each of their last two games. It’s not impossible but they’ve left themselves with an awful lot to do. Munster could do with Racing Metro beating Saracens but you’d have to say that Saracens look to be in the driving seat and will more than likely top the group.
Leinster are playing for second place now after the two defeats to Clermont. If you wanted to pinpoint what has them in trouble, you only have to look at the tries scored column in the table. Leinster have only managed three tries in their four games, which means that the only team in the whole competition to have scored less than them is Edinburgh who have zero tries and zero points. Even allowing for how tough Leinster’s pool is – nobody else in Europe has had to play Clermont twice, after all – three tries isn’t good enough.
Will It Happen?
Realistically, I don’t think so. Ulster will surely make it through and should have a home quarter-final as well. But Munster and Leinster are in real trouble.
I’d rate Munster’s chances of making it through slightly higher than Leinster’s purely because the other teams in their pool have taken points off each other and they’ve scored more tries. They’re a little bit more in control of their own destiny than Leinster are.
But both teams need bonus point wins in their last two games, which is a huge ask.
I hope I’m wrong on this but I think we might find ourselves going into the Six Nations with only one team qualified for the quarter-finals. If that happens, there’s no doubt it could affect the mood of the camp.
I’ve seen lads come in to join up with the international set-up after one province or the other hasn’t made it through and it’s very easy for fellas to mope and be down on themselves. They don’t mean to, it’s just a consequence of them being high achievers and massively competitive individuals.